At their most basic, marquesinas are parties that have a real makeshift feel to them. “Marquesinas happen in the spaces where you park your cars (garages or car ports), which are transformed into areas for parties,” Payola Co, the founder of Radiored tells Remezcla. “They’re homespun, and they bring together friends, families and neighbors.”
But for Puerto Ricans, marquesinas are more than just parties. They’re a place to build community, to heal and to exchange ideas. While they’re often connected to the underground and reggaeton scenes, they encompass any genre and age group. Because these parties are so malleable, marquesinas were the perfect setting for three HBO Latino events that took place this summer. With a goal of shining a light on lack of Latinx representation in popular media, HBO Latino teamed up with Remezcla for the Marquesina Sessions in New York, Miami and Los Angeles. Each city tackled a different area of the landscape – comedy, music and film.
Attendees at HBO Latino’s Marquesina Sessions in Brooklyn. Photo by Mario Rubén for Remezcla
At these three whirlwind events, we spoke to eventgoers about how they wanted to see their cultures represented in these industries. Feeling inspired by their answers, we wanted to dig more into what make marquesinas so special and necessary to Puerto Ricans. We spoke to six Puerto Ricans creatives about these events and why they are so meaningful. Here’s what they had to say.
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"That’s where we learned to socialize."
My first memory of a marquesina was in my adolescent years. It was a birthday/halloween party for one of my best friends from high school. We had sandwiches de mezcla and alcohol-free punch. Colored lights set the mood; the music was chosen by my friend’s mom and us. It was a mix of everything, but what everyone was waiting for was El Perreo Intenso.
Marquesinas are important events because that’s where we learned to socialize, get to know people, interact, listen to new music and dance. –Payola Co, Radiored founder
"It turned into a cultural gathering that was beyond just a regular party."
Marquesinas are something that you have to live to be able to understand. There was a dynamic of a lot of dancing, and it was one of the first dancing experiences that many of us had when we were young. Usually the moms would put out snacks and drinks on some tables. There was little light and sometimes hasta se perriaba in a single file, this we called the “chu chu tren” or “perritren.”
My first memories that I have of marquesina are from when I was in seventh and eighth grade. I remember DJ Pacha was always playing everything from old school reggaeton to boleritos so we could dance pegados.
In these spaces there was a dynamic of liberty, not just musical but also spiritual. Growing up, marquesinas were the only place where we could dance reggaeton without judgment.
Later on, like around 11th and 12th grade, on a random Thursday, my mom was going to throw away a rug. I took it out of the trash and put it in my marquesina and threw a party with all my friends. They showed up and we shared music, dance, food and drinks. We christened the event “Los Jueves de Alfombra,” and we did it for a few years. And each time, more people came to the party. It turned into a cultural gathering that was beyond just a regular party. –Saki Sacarello, DJ and artist
"That idea always stuck in my head that marquesina parties was like a community-gathering experience."
As far as I can remember, as a kid, in my house, there was a marquesina, which [is] basically a [car port]. As a kid, we would play there all the time, and I remember we would also put soap on the floor with water and we would slide on it. It was a recreational area for us.
When I was in first grade and my birthday was coming up, my mom asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and I [said], “I want to do a disco party.” It became a standard and a staple as a young kid. Everyone knew that I was [throwing] disco parties. I made straight disco parties from first grade to sixth grade. Every year, my birthday was a disco party, and it was done in the garage.
Marquesinas in Puerto Rico … are part of the house. This place – not in my case, but in many, many cases – serve as any event [space]. Anything you could possibly do, you could do it at the marquesina: weddings, family gatherings, you could even use it for a construction area.
For me, it always has a connotation of a gathering, and sort of like building community. That’s how I started my brand and [where I got] my name D’marquesina. In those parties [in Puerto Rico], we would play all sorts of music and that’s how D’marquesina started coming to New York. [It felt like] every single party was playing just one type of music, so we wanted to incorporate that concept of playing American music, different genres, Spanish music, Latinoamerican music from all genres and styles.
That idea always stuck in my head that marquesina parties was like a community-gathering experience and that’s what happened here in New York when I started [these] parties. All the Puerto Ricans that left the island, they started meeting in my parties. It became a social place to meet people from your country. -Hector Arce-Espasas (D’marquesina), artist behind Rosa Perreo parties @rosaperreo
"It was a space to connect and fraternize. A space in the house that served as a bridge between the intimacy of the home and the community."
My memories of the marquesinas are about playing and sliding all over the floor. I would play with my sister and all my neighbors, always with some music in the background.
For me, they were also special because it reminds me of moments from my childhood. It brings me back to the rosarios my grandmother would make, where the whole community would show up. They would gather and we’d see our entire family, cousins, friends and neighbors. Everyone would bring food as a contribution. Just thinking about it, I can smell the hot chocolate and pan sobao con mantequilla. Also in my house, the family would gather on some holidays like Mother’s Day, and we’d do a ritual where we held hands and sang la canción de la muralla.
It was a space to connect and fraternize. A space in the house that served as a bridge between the intimacy of the home and the community. It had the quality of being a multi-use space, from a party to un rosario. Or where you could have a birthday celebration that only required balloons, music and a table with a cake – even more so, if there wasn’t a lot of money that year to celebrate somewhere else.
I remember one time Mami enlisted the neighbors to come together for issues that affected the community. For example, the displacement and sales of homes for the construction of a new mall. Or on another occasion, to urge the mayor of the municipality to design and build a road with a working bridge, since it had collapsed on various occasions – including during Hurricane María – and left us isolated. -Mano Santa
"[Marquesinas are] a crash course in Puerto Rican culture."
[Marquesinas are] a crash course in Puerto Rican culture. The summer before I moved to New York from Puerto Rico, I went to one of the [marquesinas], and instantly, the scene and the diversity of the music, made it feel like home. New and old friends are hanging out and dancing to great music.
It made me feel that no matter the distance, we were all together sharing our love [of] Puerto Rico. We all have our reasons why we moved abroad, leaving friends and family behind, which can be something tough to do. But at least, even if it was for a few hours, we felt as close as ever to our beloved island. -Manu Valencia
"All and any of these parties can be a safe space for Latinos to gather in places where we're not the majority."
As I’ve grown I’ve been to different kinds of marquesina gatherings. It’s safe to say there was a party de Marquesinas for every stage in my life. As a kid, my first marquesinas merely meant I got to attend my first-ever house party. As a young adult, it was the first time I was exposed to reggaeton dancing in an apartment, and now that I’m living outside of the island they’ve become a networking event.
Here, a marquesina is a monthly event to dance in a space that plays exclusively reggaeton and other classic Latam genres.
I think the term marquesinas was outdated and then brought back by the nostalgia trend. Even though before, the requirement for a marquesina party was for it to happen at a “marquesina,” today it’s the name of a DJ duo, the name of a party, and it can be loosely applied to any other reggaeton-related gathering. You could say that the “Perreo Combativo en La Fortaleza” was a party de marquesinas. The same way you could say an upcoming party in Puerto Rico called República is also a Party de Marquesinas. Following protests, all and any of these parties can be a safe space for Latinos to gather in places where we’re not the majority, as well as an opportunity to spread an idea like Puerto Rico as an independent república. – Ilia Isales, advertising freelancer